Population Sodium Reduction Strategies for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in the South-East Asia Region
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) cause an estimated 7.9 million deaths in the South-East Asia Region (SEAR). Of these 3.6 million are due to cardiovascular diseases for which hypertension is the leading factor. In the Region, hypertension affects one in three adults and kills nearly 1.5 million people each year. Hypertension is largely preventable by adopting lifestyle modifications; and reducing sodium in diet is known to be highly efficacious for primary prevention of hypertension. The Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, adopted in September 2011, specifically calls upon Member States to accelerate the implementation of, among others, cost-effective interventions to reduce salt and to work towards reducing the use of salt in the food industry to lower sodium consumption. Population-wide reduction in salt intake is the most cost effective means to reduce hypertension with WHO promoting salt reduction as a “Best Buy” and encouraging all countries to reduce average individual salt intake to <5 g/day through the development of national salt reduction strategies.
In view of the above and to develop regional strategies for salt reduction and measure population salt intake in the Region, the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) organized an “Expert Meeting on Population Sodium Reduction Strategies for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in the South-East Asia Region” for its Member States from 11 to 13 December 2012 in New Delhi, India. The Meeting was attended by 29 participants representing national governments of eight Member States of the Region, the WHO Secretariat from countries, SEARO and WHO headquarters as well as global experts. Based on the inputs received the experts set up a regional target and formulated recommendations to achieve this target for both Member States and WHO.
This regional report describes the current burden of noncommunicable diseases in the South-East Asia Region, their underlying risk factors and socioeconomic determinants. The report also summarizes the progress countries are making for tackling the NCD epidemic, provides the base for regional and country responses, highlights selected successful country practices and recommends the way forward in addressing NCDs and risk factors in a comprehensive and integrated way.
Oloan Gultom was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2011. He is 40 years old, married and has a young son. Before the illness, he worked as a tyre fitter, earning around US$ 4 a day in Indonesia. The family is now struggling to make ends meet. “When the doctor explained that I had lung cancer, I was in shock and kept saying: ‘Are you sure doctor?’ ‘How could this happen to me?’” says Gultomm. “We are poor. How will I pay for the treatment?” he worries. He had been smoking since he was 15 and had no idea that it could cause lung cancer.